On Thursday, the University of Florida has reluctantly agreed to let Richard Spencer speak at the first campus event since the march in Charlottesville back in August through the University of Virginia.
The University of Florida campus event is scheduled for the 19th of October, and is coming at a time when hate speech and free speech are a hot debate topic throughout the country.
The university claims its decision was because of their belief that the state institution must allow all people with different points of views their right to free speech.
The University of Florida had originally rejected the request by Spencer’s National Policy Institute to hold an event on their campus in September. According to the university spokeswomen, Janine Sikes, the rejection was “based on specific security threats.
Spencer, along with his attorney and supporters, challenged the decision, claiming that it violates his First Amendment rights.
Sikes later announced: “Although UF leadership has denounced Spencer’s white supremacist rhetoric, the university, as a state entity, must allow the free expression of all viewpoints. ”
She did say, however, that just to ensure the safety of its students during the event, “UF will end up paying at least $500,000 to enhance security on campus and in the city of Gainesville.”
This would include the “University of Florida Police Department, Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol and other agencies who are providing first responders.”
Spencer’s Denied Speeches
Several universities have denied Spencer the chance to speak at their events following the Charlottesville incident, when one protestor drove his car into the crowd, killing one person and injuring nineteen. Spencer marched alongside the protestors and is widely known as a white supremacist.
Last spring, following Auburn University’s refusal to let him speak on their campus, a judge decided to overturn the decision, claiming it is unconstitutional to ban speech on the basis of its content while there was no evidence that Spencer advocated for violence.
Last month, Michigan State University was sued by George State University student, Cameron Padgett, who was organizing a college tour for Spencer. The lawsuit also claimed violations to his First Amendment rights.
“It’s terribly important,” Spencer said about the University of Florida’s decision. “It’s not just important for me. It is clearly a free-speech issue.”
“When one just says things that are anodyne or conventional, free speech is not in question,” he said. “But when someone says something controversial and radical, then the rubber hits the road.”